Longtime Seattle Times receptionist served as counselor, grandmother, knitting coach and more.
It’s impossible to know how many subscriptions Marilyn Hasenoehrl saved, how many readers called into The Seattle Times newsroom with a head full of steam and hung up, charmed by Hasenoehrl’s calm voice, humor and help.
On paper, Mrs. Hasenoehrl was the newsroom receptionist, but in the span of two decades, she became much more: counselor, grandmother, knitting coach and friend.
And in a room full of egos, Mrs. Hasenoehrl was the humble warrior who faced and fought five bouts with breast cancer. She lost the last one just after midnight on March 16 at the University of Washington Medical Center. She was 72.
She is survived by her husband, Richard, of Bellevue, and four children: Kelly, Kevin, Kathleen and Max.
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She also leaves behind a sea of family and friends who loved her — and thousands of readers for whom she was the first, and sometimes only, personal contact with the newspaper they received every day.
Mrs. Hasenoehrl battled cancer for 24 years, but she never let on how much pain she was in.
“She fought the valiant fight,” said friend Sharon Lane, a retired Seattle Times food editor. “She never complained and asked, ‘Why me?’ ”
Even with a lymphedema sleeve on one arm, Mrs. Hasenoehrl knit hats for friends, for newborns (her signature was an orange pumpkin cap, complete with green stem), and for patients undergoing chemotherapy at The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where she was treated for years.
In 1996, when her youngest, Max, was a senior in high school, Mrs. Hasenoehrl took a news-assistant job at The Seattle Times. She loved it. The personalities, the stories, the rough-and-tumble of the place. She knew staffers’ children and kept a “Grandma Drawer” of trinkets: crayons, games. Fun stuff that came in the mail.
“I have never known anyone who could not wait to get out the door every morning,” said her daughter, Kathleen Hasenoehrl. “She couldn’t wait to get into work. She was a huge advocate for the paper.”
If she saw someone in a restaurant or coffee shop reading another newspaper, she would persuade them to subscribe. If they were on the fence, she would offer to get them a discount.
Even after her position was cut in August 2015, Mrs. Hasenoehrl couldn’t quite let go, her daughter said. “For the first four months she would answer the phone, ‘Seattle Times newsroom; how may I help you?’ ”
Mrs. Hasenoehrl was one of eight children born to Lawlor and Helen Seeley, of Anchorage, Alaska, where her father was the second dentist to practice in town.
In 1954, her mother left with the children and moved to Seattle, where she raised them as a single mother in Magnolia.
On the first day of fourth grade at Our Lady of Fatima Parish School, she met classmate Sharon Lane. Their friendship would last 61 years.
“We’ve been together a long time,” Lane said the other day. “Marilyn’s things in life were faith, family and friends. That’s what was important to her.”
The two friends graduated from Holy Names Academy in 1963, and Mrs. Hasenoehrl — then Marilyn Seeley — went on to Seattle University.
In 1965, on a school-sponsored ski trip to Whitefish, Montana, Richard Hasenoehrl spotted her at a party where she was serving popcorn and chatting with everyone.
“I thought, ‘Geez, she’s pretty kind and was very much a conversationalist,’” he remembered. “So that was kind of it.”
They skied together, went to other parties and at the end of the trip, she took his coat home with her to ensure she would see him again.
They would have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in November.
“She was tough,” her husband said. “She was a fighter.”
Services are pending, and will be held at The Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University. Richard Hasenoehrl is a former controller at Seattle U.
Donations to help with funeral expenses can be made to GiveForward.